The Love That Makes You Happy: “Gift of Friendship” Book-Review

Apparently Charlotte Bronte once said: “There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures”, and I can’t help thinking she’s right.

Edited by Dawn Camp, “The Gift of Friendship” includes quotes like the one above and stories from Holley Gerth, Kristen Strong, Lesli Richards (my personal favourite) and many more. It’s released today, so go to this page to see more about the book. As with Dawn’s previous offering “The Beauty of Grace”, this is one to dip in and out of – to read and be encouraged, whether you’ve been blessed with gazillions of friends or a select few.

I wonder if there’s a book on friendship you’ve enjoyed.

When you Have to Give Up

On Sunday, we had a family service – one of those where the talk is shorter, and small children stay in church for the majority of the meeting. My pastor’s wife talked about Nick Vujicic – a man born with a rare genetic disorder that left him without arms and legs, and all the things he’d done with his life. Her message to us was “Never give up” and make use of the gifts and talents you’ve got, because you matter.

She said he had a hard time in childhood and was badly bullied, but his parents kept telling him, “Never give up” and when he was seventeen, he was inspired at his prayer group. In that sentence there, you can see two things he had that some people don’t: A supportive family, and a faith. Apparently he’s learnt to surf, and to drive. He’s graduated from university with a degree in financial planning. Of course I respect him for all this, but I also know of someone who went to university as the first-ever visually-impaired person to do a degree in mathematics. Her school almost stopped her doing the A level. She only managed it because her father agreed to learn mathematical Braille and come into her lessons, at no charge to the school, to give her the support she needed. If you have people who are willing to re-educate themselves and put their own lives on-hold to give you an extremely high level of support, of course you’ll have a higher chance of achieving. I may be wrong, but I don’t think this blind lady I mentioned could finish her degree. How demoralising that must have been to be beaten after all her hard work.

Apparently Nick Vujicic is now married, with two children. It doesn’t take too many brains to work out that in order to marry, the person you have feelings for needs to return those feelings. What I’m really saying is that in my experience, for the sake of your own sanity, there are certain things you have to give up on. Perhaps it’s more challenging sometimes to surrender those things, and yet still find contentment in the life you’ve been given. Nick Vujicic has founded a ministry he’s called “Life Without Limits”, but there are limits. Even in creation, God set a boundary for the waves of the sea (Job 38:11). My message to you reading this blog would be that even if you do reach a point where you have to give up, even if you can’t use your gifts and talents in the ways you’d like to use them, you still matter, and God’s plan for you is good. Don’t look at anyone else, or what they’ve achieved with their resources. Look at yourself; look at God, and make it your aim to be content with the life you’re living in Him.

A Letter from Jesus

It’s awhile since we’ve had a Compassion-related post, so if you’re new to this blog, you might wonder why ‘Compassion’ features in the title. Compassion as an organisation seeks to bring children out of poverty through child-sponsorship. Maybe you’re sceptical about child-sponsorship and thinking: How would they make sure my money got to the right place? To answer that, Compassion is Christ-centred, child-focused, church-based, and committed to financial integrity, so Compassion’s centres are run by local churches – those on the ground, who are best-placed to know the specific needs of their communities. My own Compassion-family are all around the world and I love them dearly.

One area I’ve never sponsored in though is South America. I’m delighted to be a Compassion-blogger and this week, some of my fellow-bloggers have gone to Ecuador. They’re there primarily to put their experiences into words – to share with anyone who’ll listen what it’s like in one of the 26 countries where Compassion works. Perhaps their posts are aimed at newbies, but as a seasoned sponsor myself, I find them just as encouraging. Ashley met a man whose sponsor had asked what his dream was (I think I’m going to ask my eldest that), and Ruth’s post on the theme of letters reminded me of something Paul said in the Bible.

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone,” says Paul. “You show that you are a letter from Christ sent through us.” Every time we show love to someone, we’re a letter from Jesus straight to them. My fellow-bloggers get to show that love in person this week in Ecuador; I get to do it through child-sponsorship.

And the exciting part?

You can too. Bri wrote that she waited too long to sponsor her first child. I know it takes some thought because it’s a long-term commitment, but please, don’t wait too long. Maybe now’s the perfect time to choose a child and start writing those letters of love, from your heart to theirs.

What to do When it all Goes Pear-Shaped

I wanted to write a post on this theme, but couldn’t find the words until I looked at the life of Moses. As a young adult in Egypt, Moses sees a Hebrew slave being mistreated and tries to help by taking things into his own hands. He ends up murdering an Egyptian and being forced to leave the country – not a great start, so he lives in Midian for a while, where he meets his wife, gets married and fathers two boys. That’s the background.

One day, when he’s looking after his father-in-law’s sheep, he meets with God in a very special way (maybe you’ve heard the famous story of the burning bush). God tells Moses that He’s seen the misery of His people and He’s going to rescue them, and Moses will be the one to do it. Moses of course has excuses. Perhaps he’s thinking of his past and the murder when he says: “I am not a great man”, but every excuse he can find, God has an answer for.

As he went with his brother Aaron to Pharaoh’s palace to ask to leave Egypt, Moses must have thought: “Finally! I’m doing what I always wanted – helping my people, and this time I’ve got God on my side. What can go wrong?”

But the Pharaoh had no regard for God. He accused the Israelites of laziness and increased their workload considerably. Not only did they blame Moses and Aaron, they actually said: “May the LORD punish you. You caused the king and his officers to hate us” (Exodus 5:21): Opposition from Pharaoh, opposition from his own people, and the temptation to doubt God.

Following God won’t always ensure that circumstances go our way, but it’s what we do when everything goes pear-shaped that counts. What Moses did was to pray and ask Him about the situation. “Why have You brought this trouble on Your people? Is this why You sent me here? I went to the king and said what You told me to say, but ever since that time he has made the people suffer. And You have done nothing to save them” (Exodus 5:22-23). God, I did everything You told me to do. What’s going on? And what happened after that? “Then the LORD said to Moses” … Letting God in allows Him to give us His take on things, and to strengthen us for the journey ahead.

Moses tells the Israelites about God’s promise to him, but in their discouragement, they refuse to listen and soon, Moses is discouraged right along-with them. “’Surely the king will not listen to me either. I am not a good speaker.’ But” (here it is again) “the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron” (Exodus 6:12-13).

I don’t know all the people reading this blog. I don’t know the situations you’re struggling with, but can I encourage you to let God in?